“Everything is open and I still believe”
Thursday Talking Points: quotes from Quartararo, Bagnaia, Aleix Espargaro, Bastianini, Miller, Brad Binder and Marc Marquez
Thursday, 29 September 2022
Reset, reload and race! The paddock has touched down in Thailand and we’re back underway at Buriram, with Thursday kicking us off with the customary media day.
Two Press Conferences saw us hear from Championship hopefuls and recent headline-stealers, with the first sitting Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) down alongside Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™). Then it was over to Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to hear their thoughts ahead of the OR Thailand Grand Prix.
Here are some key quotes!
What are your feelings ahead of the weekend?
“Japan was a little bit of a frustrating race. Of course, I couldn’t make any overtakes. Our pace was quite good but we were really stuck. In this track, I think we can manage to get a great result in any case. Rain or dry, I think we can get a great result. Of course, the first and second sector is going to be tough for us, but I’m ready to fight for it.”
Where can you make the time up on the Yamaha?
“I can make the time everywhere. I mean, I have to do it. Especially braking zones, I feel we are quite strong, especially with the new chassis, on the dry. On the wet, let’s see. I think in Motegi I was riding too aggressive and it was not working. Especially on the wet, you need to be really smooth and that was not our case.”
Do you have memories of what Buriram was like in the one wet session of 2019?
“Well, I don’t even remember that we had the wet session, and I think it was not even full wet… [Sees vision] Yeah, I mean for sure, we have to do our best and try to find our pace like we did in Motegi. The first laps were good, but just we didn’t make it in qualifying, so let’s see how we manage.”
Is there anything you can do with the bike to make the overtaking situation better?
“Well, nothing we can do. We have the same bike as the beginning of the year. We managed to get a different chassis lately, but it’s not a massive change, so in the end, we cannot do many things. Next year will be more fun for us – we have more engine performance – and I think they are doing more evolutions, so next year we will have maybe more possibilities.”
How do you feel about last weekend’s crash, is it playing on your mind?
“I’m still thinking and analysing everything. We have to understand why I was struggling on acceleration and why I was losing time to other bikes. I got stuck behind Pol Espargaro for a lot of laps and it was impossible to overtake him so we had to understand that and maybe this weekend we’ll find something that will help us. In any case, the weekend had been quite strange for the conditions, for everything, for being on wet I was struggling so much when in the past I was competitive so we have to understand.”
What conclusions have you drawn, have lessons been learned?
“It’s difficult to know, we understand that in some situations we are to push the same, I wasn’t able to push like I wanted because I was behind somebody who was slower on the braking, and braking less than me, so I got stuck. If I think about the crashes, the objective was just to get in front of Fabio, ok it was one more point, but I think it was too ambitious in that moment because I was trying to overtake from too far. The only lucky thing was I didn’t touch him in the crash.”
Here looks like a rainy weekend, but is it a chance to find confidence?
“Compared to last year the only thing I have changed is the balance of our bike, so maybe for that reason I’m struggling more. The difficult thing is that we haven’t had too many wet sessions this year, so I didn’t have the feeling in Japan. I was not feeling the tyres and when I’m in this situation, I’m struggling more. I think we have some good ideas to help me feel more, the movement, the transfer of weight so it will be better for sure.”
Does Buriram suit you?
“For sure, sector 1 for Ducati is good. We have just one corner and straight, so it’s a good sector. Sector 3 is our weak point. In 2019 we were losing a lot of time compared to Fabio and Fabio was the only fast one there. The new fairing will help us on that part of the track.”
Do you have a clear mind after the Japan disappointment?
“I was quite sad. Not angry at all, but really sad about what happened on Sunday after the race, but after, I went to Tokyo and on Monday I had dinner with my team – everybody – I love every single person on my team, and they were even more down than me. So, I’m the leader of this team and I said to them, ‘Head up, it’s a mistake, everybody can make mistakes.’ Now there is a new scenario for us, and there is always positive things when new things are coming, so I will try to recover the points here.”
Did you feel it was important to sit with the crew and talk about Sunday?
“Yeah, you know, we discussed internally. Even if we don’t talk about the problem we had, it will not happen anymore – 100 percent – but we used that mistake to re-analyse everything, to try to make no mistakes, to try to improve all the procedures, and to see where we can improve. Again, all my team, all the engineers, it was not as simple as it looks, the problem, so all my team was very down and I’ll try to say to them, ‘It’s a human mistake, it can happen, and this is racing,’ so I totally forget and I’m fully positive for the next weekend.”
Do you like Buriram and how do you think this year’s Aprilia will work here?
“This is a very good question. It’s funny because I cannot answer you about whether or not I like this layout. I don’t really remember ’19, but anyway, ’19, I didn’t like any track, because this year’s bike is another story. So, I hope we can ride in the dry, but in any case, if it’s wet, I was quite fast in Japan. I was surprisingly fast in the rain, so even if it’s wet, it can also be a good opportunity because when there is a race in the rain, normally more strange things can happen, and we need it.”
Thoughts on the 25-point gap?
“Actually, I was upset after the race, not just for the mistake but also for how the race went, because it’s very strange that first and second in the championship were fighting for eight place. Fabio and Pecco are very, very fast at every circuit and it was quite shocking that they were fighting for eighth place, so it was a good opportunity to may recover some point, but you never know. Maybe if we didn’t have the mistake, where I was in the race, you cannot really understand. But 25 points is not that much. The level of MotoGP now is very high so, in the past, the leader of the championship, in a very bad day, he could finish second, third, fourth, but now if you have a bad day, you can finish outside the top 10. So, everything is open and I still believe in my options.”
What are the positives from Japan?
“For me the last weekend has been really difficult. I committed one mistake on Friday and after it was really difficult. Saturday it was completely wet and QP wasn’t easy for me and I crashed again. Here is another track, the conditions are similar to Saturday of Motegi, and I think it will be like this all weekend. We are able to do something more than Motegi.”
You’re a “Buriram rookie” in the premier class, and it looks like rain…
“It’s my first time here in MotoGP™. I don’t think it will be difficult to understand the track and we have more sessions and FP than Motegi. It’s clear this is an advantage for me because in Motegi with only one dry session, it made it too difficult to arrive to the race battle. In any case, we have to do 100%.”
And what about Championship hopes?
“It doesn’t change anything. I’m not close to Fabio, 49 points behind. I have to do everything like before, push in every session and do my best possible. We will see where we are in the last race, and nothing, I don’t have pressure about this.”
Do you arrive here now pretty buzzing?
“Yeah, you know quick turnaround but it has sunk in now. I’ve got to sit down and watch the race back in a bit of disbelief. I didn’t expect that, I’ve never ridden like that before. Bit of a shock but amazing to have that emotion and feeling and yeah, ready to do it again in Thailand. Looks like we’re in for a dodgy weather weekend so who knows!”
How many times have you watched the race?
“None on the flight, but I’ve watched it twice. I thought two or three times was enough. We all sat down to watch it together waiting for the bus, Ruby, myself and Thomas. And then yeah, in the airport again!”
Does Buriram suit your style?
“Going back to when we raced here last time, apart from turning the bike off on the grid, it was a really good weekend for us. It’s a track I enjoy, one I’ve always had good pace at, you know, with what relative races we’ve had here. We’ve not had too many. It’s good to be back here, feels awesome to do these flyaways as I said in Japan and it stands the same now. Even though we’ve been busy in Bangkok and you’re all a bit tired and what not, but I love it. It feels cool to be back at these tracks, ones we haven’t been at in a long time and definitely a different element to these tracks. With the momentum, I found a great bit of speed, in FP1, in Japan over the weekend. Just with our set up and stuff like that, really analysing the data from the Aragon race and understanding what I need to do to match Pecco and Enea and we could really execute that in Japan. I’d like to keep that ball rolling but let’s see what FP1 has for us.”
Thoughts on your form at the moment and progress from the Barcelona test?
“The changes we made at the test made me feel more comfortable but you’re kind of stuck in your ways of where your braking points are after riding there 3 days in a row. So when I went to the Sachsenring I noticed a massive difference in the bike in the set up and like you say, pretty much every race we’ve been battling, ok I missed a podium in Assen with the LLP and the MIsano crash and Aragon wasn’t our weekend, apart from those we’ve been on the box every other weekend.”
It was a wet weekend and this could be another:
“It wasn’t what I wanted from the QP sessions especially after the pace I showed in the morning so it was a strange one, hard to chalk it down to one thing. I didn’t have the speed in the afternoon, couldn’t push, every time I tried, I nearly went down. I have no doubt we will have decent pace in the wet, and here in Buriram isn’t the most technical track let’s say, especially in the wet, so with the Ducati and the way it works and can find traction I think we’ll be strong no matter the conditions.”
How important is it to maintain momentum?
“Yeah, for sure, the last two races have been positive for us. To just miss out in a podium at Aragon was a bit disappointing because I’d been in third for most of the race, but last week in Japan was pretty good. I had an okay start, felt like I needed the first five or six laps to figure a few things out, but once I fixed a few key points on track, I was able to improve and put together a decent enough rhythm, but I wasn’t quite as fast as I would liked to have been. But anyway, it was nice to be back on the podium after so long, and I think my team and myself both really needed it because it’s been a tough season where every weekend we have fallen short of what we came there to achieve. So, we’re slowly starting to go back in the direction where we need to be and this weekend, let’s see. It’s my first time here on the GP bike, in my third season, so that’s a bit weird, but let’s see. I mean, weather’s looking a bit sketchy to say the least, so hopefully if we get some dry track time, we can really take advantage of it, but yeah, last week I was quite comfortable in the wet so let’s see what the weekend brings for us.”
You were strong here in Moto2™ so is it a track you like and how do you think it will be on a KTM this weekend?
“I really enjoy this circuit, I’ve always loved the way it races. For me, I think it’s pretty cool to have these back-to-back events all over the world, so, always looking forward to getting started again. I think we need to try and keep the momentum going, keep the ball rolling, and just try to be strong throughout the weekend again. But no, I really want to make sure I give myself a bit of time at the beginning, don’t do anything silly, and once I get comfortable at the track, try to build from there.”
Does last week’s front row in a wet Q2 give you confidence if it rains?
“Sure. I mean, our bike is always really, really good in the wet conditions; I’ve always just struggled a little bit more than I should. I think the last few times I’ve ridden in the rain, it was really only in Portimao and then Japan last week, so both times I was able to be more or less competitive, or more near the front than usual, so I think it’s pretty good. I mean, I’d really like a full dry week for sure, but I think that’s a lot to ask at the moment.”
How important are the last 10 minutes of FP3 now, given your performances when you make Q2?
“Definitely. Things are so tight in MotoGP™ at the moment and even when you’re qualifying the back of the Q2 grid, more or less ninth to 12th, you’re losing a good two or three seconds in those first two or three laps, really, and even if you do have good rhythm, you don’t normally make that back up. So, what you lose at the beginning is normally a buffer that stays. It’s difficult because we know our strongest point’s not qualifying, or it’s not a single lap, but in the races, we’re always not far from where we need to be. I believe we have done something that’s made us a bit more competitive, but we need to try and be more comfortably within that top eight, top six, rather than on the fringe of the top 10, so we’ve got some work to do, but let’s see. Lately it’s been a bit better; let’s try and keep that rolling.”
Your smile on Sunday said it all… some good positives from Motegi:
“A positive weekend for me and the team and Honda. It was important to have a solid weekend and to have this motivation and good news inside the garage. Basically for me was to finish the race in a good way. Of course, I was quite careful during the race especially in my conditions and that soft rear tyre. I managed in a good way, we did a good race and we did kilometers that is the most important now, and now looking forward to Buriram.”
How are you physically since Motegi?
“Yeah, in Motegi it was really important, since 2020 in Jerez I haven’t been able to attack on the last laps, because when you have pain, you have lack of power and lose the concentration a bit, and in all the races I did, I was going down in the last lap. Motegi was the first time I could keep pushing on the last laps, it’s true that I had a lack of power, but it’s normal, and most importantly I finished in a good way. Let’s see here in Buriram, it’s true in the Japan GP the weather helped us, that we didn’t stress the body too much on Saturday. During the week, it took more time than I expected to recover because on Monday I felt ok, and on Tuesday it was completely stiff, the arm, but it takes time and tomorrow won’t be a problem.”
Thoughts on the new swingarm?
“I mean, I raced the full weekend in dry with aluminum, in wet with carbon. It’s not the best way to work to achieve best results, but it’s how we need to work. Here we will do the same strategy, but in the future we need to try carbon, a different spec so still, we haven’t decided. I’m here to work for Honda, if we have time, we will try a few things, big things, just to understand the concept for next year. It’s not the best way to achieve the best result but I’m here to work for 2023.”
Do you have good memories here from 2018 and 2019?
“Thailand is a circuit I like, really good memories from 19. Last corner with Fabio…. I need to change strategy! This year we don’t arrive with the same situation, we won’t arrive on the last lap fighting for the victory, let’s see. When you arrive to the circuit with great memories, it gives you something special.”